By Vicki Needham - 10/31/13 02:54 PM EDT
The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) scolded Senate Republicans for blocking Mel Watt's nomination to head up one the nation's top housing regulators.
The North Carolina Democrat, who was nominated by President Obama to take the reins at the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), came up several votes short in a procedural vote on Thursday.
CBC Chairwoman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) said she is "very disappointed" that a majority of Senate Republicans opposed Watt's nomination and a chance for him to have an up-or-down vote in the upper chamber.
"At a time where American families are still recovering from the effect of the mortgage crisis, Rep. Watt’s leadership of this agency would be critical to restoring the integrity of the housing finance system and return homeownership in this country as a key to building wealth," she said in a statement.
Only two Republicans supported Watt — fellow North Carolinian Richard Burr and Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio.
She argued that only one other time in the history of Congress has a sitting member been blocked by his colleagues from moving into a top agency slot.
"This is a disgrace to this body and a disservice to the American people," she wrote.
But Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) a member of the Senate Banking Committee said the position needs someone with the technical expertise that Watt doesn't possess.
"I hope the president will nominate a qualified technocrat with the expertise to play a constructive role in winding down Fannie and Freddie, and modernizing our housing finance system."
Watt's supporters argue that he has decades of housing industry-related experience in Congress as well as in the private sector, giving him the tools he needs to see the FHFA through a major overhaul.
The White House renewed its calls this week for a vote on Watt and called his confirmation at top economic priority.
The next FHFA head would be charged with implementing any legislation produced by Congress that would reduce the government's majority role in the mortgage finance market over the next several years.
The agency oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which were taken over by the government during the 2008 financial crisis. The government-controlled mortgage giants needed about $188 billion to stay afloat and have, in recent months, been generating billions in profits.
Acting director Edward DeMarco took over more than four years ago, and many Republicans have said they are comfortable with the direction he has taken Fannie and Freddie and his resistance to implementing policies that they oppose but have been advocated by the White House.